Master carver Tom Kinney has been turning wood into beautiful artwork for decades.
It’s one of the 73-year-old Ocala resident’s favorite ways to relieve stress. It’s also a hobby that he originally turned to for health reasons. And now he’s using his craft to benefit the health of others, as well.
Kinney, who instructs the Ocala Chippers woodcarving classes offered by the Ocala Recreation and Parks Department for those ages 50 and up, has taken on the project of an elephant carving – elephants are known for their exceptional memories – that will travel around Ocala and eventually be raffled off to benefit the local Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 21.
While Kinney has worked with a variety of different kinds of wood over the years, for this project he chose a special kind – purpleheart. Known for its distinctive purple color, purpleheart wood is native to Central and South America.
“The wood turns brown when you first cut it, but then it goes to purple and stays purple for about 10 years before it starts to fade out,” Kinney said.
Purple is the signature color of the Alzheimer’s Association, which aims to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through advancements in research, enhancement of care and support for those affected, and the reduction of risk through the promotion of brain health. It’s a mission that Kinney knows the importance of all too well, having watched his own uncle struggle with the disease.
“He would forget where he was,” Kinney said. “He had a couple of automobile accidents – minor ones, like going to a restaurant and driving into the parking fence. You could sit beside him and talk and he’d have no idea what you were talking about.”
Having recently obtained the necessary wood, Kinney is currently working on this project and plans to finish it within the next couple of weeks.